Thomas, George, Stephen and Peter Soffron and their sister Virginia were the children of a couple who moved from Greece to Ipswich, to work in the mills. Whether the brothers ever worked in the mills is uncertain, but in 1932 they started digging clams for the local market, working out of the family farm on Locust Street, In 1940 Soffron Brothers Clam Inc. purchased the Brown Square property and built a seafood processing factory on the site. The four brothers, Tom, George, Pete and Steve, were the children of Greek immigrants who came to work at the Ipswich mills. They moved their shucking house to Brown Square in the former Burke Heel factory.
Their largest customer was a rapidly growing restaurant chain, Howard Johnsons. Saffron Brothers were the exclusive suppliers of clams to the Howard Johnson chain for 32 years, which featured Ipswich Fried Clams on the menu. To keep up with demand the Soffron’s opened additional soft-shell clam shucking plants from Seabrook, New Hampshire, up the Maine coast to Nova Scotia. As demand continued to grow and the soft-shell clam became more difficult to source, the Soffrons invented the “Tendersweet Clam” which was a sliced clam strip made from an ocean sea clam that could be harvested in large quantities from ocean shoals far at sea. Pete and Steve built ocean fishing vessels, invented the dredging techniques for harvesting, and built patented processing equipment and new processing facilities in New Jersey.
At Brown Square they constructed a large industrial freezer that used the same flash freezing technique then being used in Gloucester to freeze fish. Tom and George perfected cooking techniques for breading and frying the product, and traveled throughout the Howard Johnson chain teaching the restaurant staff to properly prepare the delicious clam strips. The frozen Tendersweet Clam strips could be shipped from Maine to Florida and was exactly the product Howard Johnson needed for his restaurant chain, which grew coast to coast to 1000 locations at its peak. They eventually built seven processing plants from Nova Scotia to Maryland, as the Howard Johnson chain grew to over 1000 restaurants. Soffron Brothers owned a fleet of fishing vessels, the first of which was the G.N. Soffron, a dragger out of Gloucester. It was 81 feet long, 19 feet wide, and 11 feet deep. Her hold capacity was 125,000 pounds.
In 1966 Howard Johnson’s ended its 32-year contract with the Soffron Brothers. After a year of re-grouping, the brothers re-opened the business, supplying fresh, frozen and canned clam products for the wholesale market from the Ipswich facility. In 1985 Howard Johnson’s was sold to Marriott Corp. which in turn spun them off. They slowly disappeared, and now there are now only two Howard Johnson’s left, one in Bangor, Maine, and the other in Lake Placid, N.Y. Soffron Brothers continued in business into the 1990’s spanning three generations of family ownership until the building and land was sold to Mercury Brewing,
*George A. Soffron provided information for this article. He is the son of Stephen N. Soffron, who was born 18 January, 1919.